On the counter in the kitchen next to the sink we have a Christmas Cactus, that I believe doesn’t have a sense of the seasons. These last few years the cactus blooms around the beginning of Advent; this year it bloomed in Advent, and now is blooming once again in Lent. This doesn’t fit with the natural pattern of the plant, yet it brings me much joy to see the fertility and fruitfulness of God’s creation, in this small way, amid the busyness of my human situation.
Each and every day I try to find ways to be open to grow, to learn, and to reflect upon the presence of God in the midst of my experience, as an individual, with others, and with the wider community that forms my faith, culture, and society.
At times this seems to flow naturally with the give and take of interactions that I have on a day to day basis. Other times, however, I feel as if God’s presence has blown past me in the wind, and that life is bereft of the expression of the spirit in profound ways. The blooms that I feel should be within my walks of life are not present in the times when I demand God’s presence and revelation.
I believe I have become a person that opens himself up in the context of the cycles and routines of daily life, of the seasons of the church, nature’s seasons, and my general pattern of living. I anticipate certain action and inaction of the Spirit. I feel I can map its journey, and anticipate, and maybe even regulate that which I deem to be God’s presence and purpose. Thank goodness for confession and forgiveness! In these actions, I miss the subtle hints and expressions of the Spirit in my midst. In these actions I limit the presence and effectiveness of God. In this I sin.
These past ten days I have had some gentle nudges and profound bumps that have reminded me that no matter if I think there is a pattern to life and ministry, I must be open to the curves that God places in my path. I have been reminded that I am not in control, even though I yearn for order, substance, and direction of my own intention.
I have had a number of stimulating and inspiring conversations with individuals in the recent past. One such conversation was in the context of sharing who I am, what I believe, and what I do. In the back and forth of the three hour discussion, I realized that I need to be open to the movement of the Spirit within others, no matter what the time, what the occasion. I cannot limit my openness to listen and to dialogue with others to be only within specific circumstances or settings. Doing so will limit how God moves and works in the world. I will be perpetually fruitless, no matter what the season.
In the context of the church community, I believe that many times, leaders expect change and transformation according to a patterned schedule. We make space for reflection, we expect it. We till the soil and water the fields, and expect harvest in an allotted time. When we don’t have this, we plough once again and move on. Persons of faith within Christian communities are not all in the same season. As a pastor, I get sidetracked in the various aspects of my ministry and faith journey, and get shocked back to reality when I encounter someone with meaningful questions, challenging observations, reminding me, that it’s not “all about me.”
This morning I went to the beach at the end of my street, and saw the beauty of creation amid the stark reality of a harsh winter and a forbidding spring. In the solitude and silence, one may think that it is desert-like, and lifeless; not so. In the absence of so much that eyes may see and ears may hear, God continues to transform and redeem.